For Christmas in 2017, I received a label maker from my spouse. It brought me more excitement than the Walkman and Paula Abdul tape I received when I was 9. Upon opening my label maker, I started labeling things in my home. Currently, the shelves in my kitchen and linen closet are labeled along with my fridge. I have also tackled my home office and spare room. It didn’t take long for me to realize I have a slight obsession for organization, efficiency, and productivity. The simple act of having labeled bins in the fridge has cut down on a lot of confusion in my house. When I bring in my most recent haul from Publix, my wife can easily help put items away without yelling down the hall “Which shelf does the ranch go on?” We have also reduced food waste by including a bin labeled “Leftovers.” It has been a win-win for efficiency and productivity.
My obsession for productivity and efficiency spills over into many other aspects of my life. If there is better way to do something, I want to know about it. Most importantly, I want to try it out. While in graduate school, I was feeling overwhelmed by the twenty plus chapters I needed to read each week. After a couple of semesters of getting up at 4 am to read before work, I was on a quest to find a more efficient way to get my work done. I took to my favorite social media platform – YouTube. This is where I discovered the Pomodoro Technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0k0TQfZGSc.
The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980’s to help individuals stay productive and focus on one task at a time. Here are the items you will need to begin utilizing the Pomodoro Technique. A timer, a sheet of paper, a writing utensil, and materials for your chosen task. Remember this technique is to be done only while focusing on one task at a time. Multi-tasking is not an option.
Once you’ve determined your task, set your timer for 25 minutes and begin working. I use the timer on my cell phone. If you choose to do the same, I suggest turning your phone on airplane mode, so you are not interrupted with calls, texts, or social media notifications. The alternative is to use a productivity timer https://www.amazon.com/Time-Timer-Charcoal-Optional-Management/dp/B06XSNYSFQ/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1531613039&sr=8-3&keywords=pomodoro+timer. When the timer goes off, conclude your work, put a checkmark on a sheet of paper, and take a five-minute break. This is a chance to take care of restroom needs, take a walk around the building, or get an afternoon cup of coffee. After you have completed this process four times, take a 30-minute break. From there you can repeat the process as many times as you need to complete the task. Today, I use this technique in my business. When I am up against a deadline and need to accomplish a lot of work over a short period of time, I have found this method to be effective in reducing distractions and getting a lot done.
The next technique is The Action Method. The Action Method was created with creative professionals and entrepreneurs in mind and is also effective for personal projects. The premise behind this method is to choose action over ideas. Everything you need to work on is considered a project. Do you need to submit a proposal to a new client? Consider it a project. Do you need to go over to moms and do some repairs? Consider this is a project too. For every project, there should be action steps, references, and back burner items. Action steps begin with an action verb such as “perform”, “write”, or “contact.” References are notes, ongoing email strings, handouts, and other items you need to refer to complete the final project. Lastly, there are back burner items. These are items that are not actionable at the current time. They are ideas for a potential client, future projects, or other growth strategies. Putting those items as an action step does not serve you in completing your current project.
For example, one of my current projects is writing operational procedures for a local organization. While writing these procedures, I note any ideas to help streamline their processes on a separate document. This is my back burner list. These ideas do not impact my writing of the procedures, but they may serve as future ideas to help the organization with efficiency.
There are several ways to organize projects while using the Action Method. Actionmethod.org has a series of dot grid books and journals for purchase. My preferred method is to set up project folders on a google drive that I can access from anywhere. I create a main folder with the project name and keep three documents with in that folder – Action steps, references, and a back burner list.
Do you have a favorite productivity method? If so, tell us about it in the comments below.